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Donald Trump Claims It’s Really Hard For Syrian Christians to Enter U.S., Easy for Muslims

During his speech in Ohio following the terrorist attack in Istanbul, Turkey, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump interrupted his call for a more “vicious” U.S. response to ISIS, up to and including beheading, to make the claim that Christian refugees from Syria have a much harder time gaining entry to the United States than Muslim refugees. Unlike his earlier opponents who called for a religious test for refugees, however, Trump made sure to explain that he wasn’t proposing anything be done to make it easier for Christians to enter the United States, he just wanted to point out how unfair that “fact” is:

If you were a Christian from Syria, very likely going to be just horribly treated, including the ultimate treatment, which is having your head chopped off. It was one of the hardest things you could do was to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim from Syria, it was one of the easier places to come into the United States from. And I’m not saying one or the other, I’m saying how unfair is that, how bad is that?

Trump’s claim likely rests on the popularly-bandied statistic that as of November, 2015, only about 3 percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the United States were Christians, as compared to the 10% of Christians who make up Syria’s population. Noted liberal rag Christianity Today, however, says there are several factual explanations for the disparity:

A typical security check for refugees takes 18 months—but it’s often longer for Middle Eastern refugees, (Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief) said. For example, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees didn’t start arriving in the States until about five years after the beginning of the conflict in Iraq. So the bulk of Syrian Christian refugees are likely still waiting to be processed, he said.

…And many Syrian Christians didn’t begin the resettlement process immediately after the civil war sparked in March 2011, he said. Instead, many Christians stayed longer in Syria because they felt protected by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

…“Christians tended to be better off economically than the average Muslim in Syria,” said Soerens. For the wealthier refugees, applying for a tourist visa is a quicker avenue of escape. Once they arrive as tourists, they can petition the US government for asylum. Since the start of the war, the number of Syrian asylum petitions has steadily risen. In 2010, 36 petitions were filed. Last year, petitions totaled 1,586.

The facts don’t matter to Trump or his crowds, but then, neither do Syrian Christian refugees. Trump specifically ruled out making things easier for them because this wasn’t about them, it was about pitting Christians against Muslims, and because any such religious test would make it easier for terrorists to simply say they’re Christians to get into the United States. Or they could avoid that whole 18-month screening process altogether by migrating to Europe and flying here on a visitor’s visa. Oops.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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